Like many of you who were thrust into educating your children at home in the last week or so, I became a homeschool mom overnight when we adopted three children ages 8, 6, and 5.
In my enthusiasm, I learned a few things the hard way. Here are my top 10 lessons:
- Don’t try to re-create the classroom. There are a gazillion reasons not to. Most importantly, this is not the time to burn yourself out. Isn’t the COVID-19 crisis enough to manage on its own?
- Don’t stress about standardized testing for your elementary and junior high students. Besides this being a year when things simply must be evaluated differently, your children can progress without textbooks and highly-structured instruction. How do I know this? Our second year homeschooling, we decided to build a house and do most of the work ourselves. Crazy, I know. We only did school for about 90 minutes each day—and an hour of that was independent reading. We also did timed math fact worksheets. That was about it. When they were tested at the end of the year, I was more than just a little nervous. But guess what? They did fantastic. In fact, my second oldest son did so well he could’ve skipped a grade.
- Read aloud nutrient-dense books to your children. The very best way to encourage a love for reading is to read great books to your children. Some of our favorite authors (in order from young audiences to older ones) Sandra Boynton, Laura Ingalls Wilder, E. B. White, and C. S. Lewis. Some nonfiction favorites were Charles Ludwig and Geoff and Janet Benge. Don’t expect your kids to sit still while you read. Sure, you probably need to put a lid on distracting behavior. For us read aloud time was a time when our children drew with colored pencils or markers or played with Legos.
- Structured learning can stifle natural curiosity. We frequently took breaks from our curriculum to let each child pursue their own interests. This is the perfect place to start if you were just thrust into the world of home education. When your child has a natural curiosity about something, you won’t have to push.
- Play is learning. Please don’t underestimate this one. If your child seems stressed by this crazy world we entered in 2020, consider imaginary play with stuffed animals or action figures. Through play, children will sometimes voice worries that they otherwise keep to themselves. If they do, you speak words of comfort and calmness through their favorite teddy bear or doll as well as help them come up with coping strategies.
- Do something fun everyday. Laughter really is the best medicine. How do you want your kids to look back on this crisis? This is the perfect time to demonstrate how to embrace peace in stressful times. Bake cookies. Play board games. Go on nature walks. Look through old family pictures.
- Keep a journal. Someday this will all be behind us. A journal will be a special keepsake in years to come (and another reason to have fun!). I purchased this journal for my grandson. Each morning I ask him to tell me about something we did the day before, and I write down what he says, correcting grammar as necessary. After he’s done dictating, I read it to him. Then he colors a picture in the blank space at the top. He loves for me to read him previous entries.
- Create a photo album to record this unique time. Shutterfly and Blurb are two of my favorite sites. Consider taking pictures of journal entries to include in your album. Depending on the age of your child, you may want to screenshot a few news headlines as well.
- Draw near to the Lord. And teach your children how. Read the Bible each day. Memorize a pertinent verse. Act out Bible stories. Pray! A bit of caution here: don’t overwhelm young children with all of the concerns you are taking to the Lord right now. Depending on their age, emotional maturity, and stress level, it might be best to just focus on one or two prayer requests.
- Focus on creating routines that will make life manageable for you. Divide up the chore list. Even a four-year old can push this mop around. If an orderly home is important to your sanity, establish regular times through the day to pick up. Generally, before lunch and before supper are good times to put things away. For young children, alternating activities every 30-45 minutes can keep them engaged and interested.
I pray all my readers enjoy the Lord’s peace and steadfast love during this time. If you have other suggestions or questions, please comment!
Also, I would love to hear what your favorite books are for children.